Being afraid is a b*!#@! Regardless of what it is exactly you’re afraid of, the experience of fear sucks. Heart pounding in your ears, mind racing crazy thoughts in spite of every attempt to talk yourself out of the crazy, imagination running wild, recalling every episode of CSI, NCIS, and that old show about missing persons and the FBI. Ugh!
The physiological response to fear can be overwhelming. Basically, as soon a person feels fear the amygdala (a small organ in the center of the brain) sends messages to the autonomic nervous system which then kicks in, creating a domino effect of events: increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, rapid breathing and release of adrenalin and cortisol. In return, the cerebral cortex effectively shuts down (well, is impaired at best). Problem is, the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain where reasoning and judgment live. This is a problem when you’re afraid, because often reasoning and clear judgment are the keys to avoiding panic and to making appropriate decisions.
When lying wide awake at 3:00 am, having one’s cerebral cortex take a coffee break is a real pain. Regardless of how many breathing exercises and peace mantras, prayers and self-reprimands one repeats, what inevitably comes to the forefront of the mind is that horrifically disturbing picture of a giant snake that someone just HAD to post on Facebook (and you’re convinced has now taken up residence in your attic) or a commercial for that new tv show, Stalker. Seriously!?!
Even when we are convinced that the fear we feel is largely unfounded or mostly unreasonable, our bodies beg to differ based on the responses we experience. When we feel it, it’s as real as the words on this page. And, when our reasoning is impaired it’s easy to let the fear take over.
For example, I slept with a nightlight on in my room the other night, something I hadn’t done since childhood. Continue reading